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ALPR from Videos – What You May Not Know

Can you use ALPR for videos, or is it just for processing camera feeds?  Why would you want to process ALPR from videos, and who might benefit from this capability?  We answer these and other frequently asked questions about automatic license plate recognition and videos.

Some people are surprised to learn that usable license plate recognition data doesn’t just come from still images.  Obtaining real-time license plate recognition from a live feed or extracting it from an MP4, WMV, AVI or other file is possible with Plate Recognizer.  Our Stream Live-Camera ALPR will detect license plates from a live camera or on file video feed with high accuracy.  Let’s jump right into answering some of the most frequently asked questions.

ALPR on video files

Surveillance cameras.  Source: Pixabay.

What is ALPR?

ALPR is an acronym for Automatic License Plate Reader.  Some people also use Automatic License Plate Recognition, Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), just License Plate Recognition (LPR) or a handful of other terms.  Whatever letters you hear used to describe it, the technology allows machines to make sense of license plate data and export it in a format useful to humans.

Humans have eyeballs that send signals to our brains and automatically process what we see as useful information.  From childhood, we learned that numbers and letters were recognizable shapes that have meaning.  When we see a vehicle, a license plate, a street sign or a bumper sticker, we don’t have to work to understand the difference.

Cameras and computers aren’t that way.  When you give them a file, whether it’s an image or a video, understanding isn’t automatic.  To machines, a picture or video of a license plate isn’t any different from one that shows a football player or a skyscraper or a sweet potato.  ALPR is technology that helps cameras and computers to make that differentiation.

Who Needs to Process ALPR from Videos?

Anyone who owns or manages a business has an interest in protecting their investment.  Property owners and rental unit managers also benefit from being able to use license plate data from the video footage they store. 

As we’ll see in a minute, being able to gather ALPR from a video is extremely valuable to law enforcement, but there are also a wide range of uses for other consumer types.  We work with customers who have cameras that are already connected to an existing Video Management Software to get fast ALPR results from the equipment they already own.  Stream is commonly used for retail centers, gated communities, parking facilities and so much more.

Video tapes for ANPR

Sorry, we don’t support these VHS/BETA video tapes.  But we do support FFmpeg files! Source: Pixaby.

Why Process ALPR from Videos?

Plate Recognizer Stream captures license plates from live RTSP camera streams in real-time or any video supported by FFmpeg and matches plates with high accuracy.  That’s a powerful advantage that allows law enforcement to stop crime in its tracks, helping make people safe.  It also helps business owners manage traffic.  But while people typically associate ALPR with a live camera feed, that’s not all it can be used for.

Connect our product Stream to any IP camera to process feeds in real-time or point it to an mp4 file and let the analysis begin.  That’s helpful because you may not always know you need license plate data from a vehicle at the moment it drives by your camera.  It could be hours, days, even months later when you realize you had a traffic or parking related issue and you need to track down the cause.

Additionally, with our technology, there’s no need to manually process one video at a time. Instead, with one click you have the ability to process thousands of video files large and small, processed over the course of a week or a month. 

Crime Scene.  Source: Pexels.

What are Common Use Cases for ALPR from Videos?

There is great value in able to capture and decode license plates from video files for both public sector and private businesses.

Use Case #1: Property Security

Let’s say you own a business that doesn’t have the ability to gather ALPR from video in real-time, but you do have an IP camera for parking lot security.  One night you experience a break-in at your business and don’t discover until the next day your building was vandalized and your office equipment stolen.  ALPR for videos allows you to pull up the file and see license plate data that could help law enforcement track down the criminals. 

Use Case #2: Police Camera Footage

Law enforcement frequently uses ALPR from videos.  In fact, ALPR technology was initially developed to help police scout for threats and make more efficient use of license plate databases.  The streets are safer and manpower is used more efficiently when personnel can use automation to look for wanted suspects, stolen vehicles or missing persons. 

Law enforcement uses live feeds to increase their situational awareness and evaluate what’s going on as it unfolds in real-time.  Some agencies use technology that activates automatic recording in certain situations.  For example, bodycams or other cameras might be set to start recording when an officer draws a firearm, activates a light bar or accelerates to a certain speed.

If the agency needs that footage later, ALPR for videos allows them to quickly and accurately gather license plate data.  They’re able to apply the same technology when people outside law enforcement share footage they gathered of a crime or traffic violation in progress.

Broken glass after a break-in.  Source: Pixabay.

Use Case #3: Traffic Monitoring

Law enforcement agencies, retail center security services or community managers might use ALPR for videos to make short work of traffic monitoring.  Plate Recognizer’s Stream allows them to process batches of short video clips of vehicles who committed traffic violations and generate a report of all the vehicles who ran red lights or stop signs, passed in a no-passing zone, failed to exercise caution in areas marked for pedestrian use and so on.

Use Case #4: Hot List Monitoriing

One of the most heart-rending situations citizens and law enforcement officials face is when a person goes missing and an Amber Alert has to be issued.  That’s when it’s most vital to be able to get fast, accurate data from all available sources. 

In that situation, Stream allows a Smart City or any city with cameras deployed to take their historical camera footage and use videos for ALPR to find a target video.  Valuable time could be lost if investigators have to sift manually through video from a variety of cameras and sources, but Stream handles them all with a single push of a button.

Vehicle license plates on a busy, dark street.   Source: Unsplash.

How does Plate Recognizer Process ALPR from Videos?

Our Plate Recognizer Stream works with or without Internet in over 200 countries worldwide.  Use a stationary camera or camera with PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom) control and zoom to capture license plates as vehicles drive by. License plate information is passed into a local database or webserver where other systems process the data.

We designed Stream to be extremely simple to deploy and exceptionally easy to use. Here’s what happens when you use it to process ALPR for videos:

  • Stream detects vehicles in your existing camera or video feed and decodes plates even if it’s dark, the vehicles are moving fast, the license plates are dirty or other challenging conditions exist. 
  • Process a number of small video files one right after another, as many as you need.
  • Save ALPR results in a CSV file, send via webhooks to your system or display them on our ALPR Dashboard.  
  • Easily customize Stream to match your camera, hardware and application environment.
  • Process data on-premise or via our cloud (coming soon!).

How do I Get Stream ALPR for Videos?

It’s easy to explore the benefits of using Stream ALPR for video, and there’s absolutely no risk because we’ll let you test drive it for free.  Right now, business customers get a 30-day free trial of Stream for up to three cameras. Click here to get started.

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About Plate Recognizer

Plate Recognizer provides accurate, fast, developer-friendly Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) software that works in all environments, optimized for your location. Sign up for a Free Trial!